State Issues Permit for Long-Term Operations of the State Water Project

  • by ACWA Staff
  • Apr 1, 2020
  • Water News

SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) on Tuesday issued an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) to the Department of Water Resources (DWR) for the continued long-term operations of the State Water Project (SWP) for the next 10 years. The permit is intended to minimize, avoid and fully mitigate impacts to four species protected under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA)..

DWR Director Karla Nemeth and CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham issued a statement on Tuesday, stating in part:

“This Incidental Take Permit … ensures that our state water infrastructure operates in a manner protective of fish species listed under the state’s endangered species law. It does so in many ways, including by dedicating water for Delta outflows during drier periods when fish and habitat need it the most. The permit also provides flexibility to capture and store water during wet years for both water supply and the environment. The ITP also better utilizes existing infrastructure to improve habitat conditions; creates a new barrier to minimize entrainment of migrating salmon at SWP pumps; and commits significant new funding to ecosystem improvements and expanded scientific research.”

CDFW is authorized to issue ITPs for the taking of a listed species under CESA. The four species that this ITP covers are longfin smelt, Delta smelt, Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon and Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon. In past years, DWR obtained coverage for SWP operations under CESA by securing a consistency determination from CDFW based on federal biological opinions.

In February 2019, as federal agencies were working to update the 2019 Biological Opinion for the coordinated long-term operation of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project, state agencies announced they would, for the first time, pursue a separate state permit to ensure SWP’s compliance with CESA, instead of relying on federal permits. This decision is a controversial one.

The State Water Contractors issued a statement Tuesday, expressing disappointment that DWR is moving forward with a project that imposes restrictions beyond the impacts of SWP operations. The SWP provides 27 million Californians with the water needed to run their homes, schools and businesses, and provides 750,000 acres of farmland with water necessary to help keep the nation fed.

“Although we are still reviewing the Incidental Take Permit issued by Fish and Wildlife and are assessing our options, the SWC and its member agencies do not support the permit conditions, which fail to incorporate the best available science, burden ratepayers with obligations far exceeding the impacts of water operations and will make compliance with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and climate change adaptation substantially more difficult,” stated Jennifer Pierre, General Manager of the State Water Contractors.

 

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